Older people are being left housebound and disabled by a lack of NHS foot-care services in England, Age Concern says.
Lack of foot care can lead to severe problems
It cites Office of National Statistics figures from 2001 suggesting a third of over-65s cannot cut their own toe-nails and struggle to access NHS services.
Some are even trying to cut their nails with gardening shears, the charity said as it launched a campaign on the issue.
The Department of Health said they expected the NHS to provide good chiropody services for the elderly.
People may need to see a chiropodist because of problems with poor circulation, ulcers or overlapping toes.
Older people may also need help with basic foot care such as nail cutting and foot hygiene because they can no longer reach their own toe-nails.
Launching their Feet for Purpose campaign, Age Concern said older people were being put on long waiting lists forcing them to pay privately or rely on services provided by the charity.
It said an NHS report showed that between 1996 and 2005, there was a 20% drop in new episodes of care in NHS chiropody.
In some areas people have no access to foot-care services on the NHS, Age Concern said.
Lack of even the most basic foot care puts the elderly at risk of complications that lead to dangerous falls, severe restrictions on mobility and social isolation.
Age Concern director general Gordon Lishman said as well as cases of people cutting their nails with gardening shears, people had also resorted to kicking solid walls in their bare feet to break their nails.
"This would have been unacceptable in 1948 when the NHS was created, and it is certainly unacceptable nearly 60 years later.
"Foot-care services should be free and universally available to those who need them - yet increasingly in many parts of England they are being restricted or withdrawn."
He called for the Department of Health to include chiropody in the NHS maximum waiting time target of 18 weeks.
A Department of Health spokesman said it recognised the importance of the provision of chiropody services to older people.
"While the 18-weeks target does not cover chiropody, it will mean faster access to treatment for many conditions affecting older people that involve consultant-led care," he said.
"We expect the NHS to provide high quality chiropody services as we know healthy feet have a huge impact on the quality of life of older people."
Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists chairman Janet McInnes said if older people were able to stay physically active they placed less of a burden on other parts of the health service.
"The SCP, along with other organisations, has highlighted again and again the impact of a lack of investment in foot health treatment for older people," she said.
"The importance of good foot health in maintaining older people's independence, mobility and social contact cannot be overstated."